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Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses : A True-Life Novel

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Walls reimagines the life of her grandmother, Lily Casey, who by age six was helping her father break horses. At 15, she left home to teach in a frontier town--riding 500 miles on her pony to get to her post. She learned to drive a car, fly a plane, and with her husband, managed a vast ranch in Arizona, surviving tornadoes, droughts, floods, and the Great Depression.

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Walls reimagines the life of her grandmother, Lily Casey, who by age six was helping her father break horses. At 15, she left home to teach in a frontier town--riding 500 miles on her pony to get to her post. She learned to drive a car, fly a plane, and with her husband, managed a vast ranch in Arizona, surviving tornadoes, droughts, floods, and the Great Depression.Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa or Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix readers everywhere.

“Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls’s no-nonsense, resourceful, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town—riding five hundred miles on her pony, alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car and fly a plane. And, with her husband, Jim, she ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one who is Jeannette’s memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The Glass Castle.

Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds—against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who didn’t fit the mold. Rosemary Smith Walls always told Jeannette that she was like her grandmother, and in this true-life novel, Jeannette Walls channels that kindred spirit. Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa or Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix readers everywhere.

Specifications

Language
English
Publisher
Scribner
Book Format
Paperback
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
288
Author
Jeannette Walls
Title
Half Broke Horses
ISBN-13
9781416586296
Publication Date
September, 2010
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
8.00 x 5.25 x 1.30 Inches
ISBN-10
1416586296

Customer Reviews

Average Rating:(4.1)out of 5 stars
5 stars
51
4 stars
77
3 stars
20
2 stars
2
1 star
3
Most helpful positive review
1 customers found this helpful
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
Great Book!
Jeannette Walls did an amazing job with this book! It is very well written and once you pick it up, its hard to put down! I read this book after reading "The Glass Castle" I definitely recommend reading this book before reading "The Glass Castle." Its been a while since I've read "The Glass Castle" and now I feel like I need to read it again after reading "Half Broke Horses."
Most helpful negative review
Average Rating:(1.0)out of 5 stars
A historical memoir, w...
A historical memoir, which I think points out the problems with this genre. How can one write a memoir for someone other than the author? In this case, the author is writing her grandmother's life, even though she died when the author was only a child. It reads like a series of anecdotes, and lacks any cohesion. A much better plan would have been to write fiction, and include the modern granddaughter in the story. A good example would be Fannie Flagg's "Fried Green Tomatoes".
Most helpful positive review
1 customers found this helpful
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
Great Book!
Jeannette Walls did an amazing job with this book! It is very well written and once you pick it up, its hard to put down! I read this book after reading "The Glass Castle" I definitely recommend reading this book before reading "The Glass Castle." Its been a while since I've read "The Glass Castle" and now I feel like I need to read it again after reading "Half Broke Horses."
Most helpful negative review
Average Rating:(1.0)out of 5 stars
A historical memoir, w...
A historical memoir, which I think points out the problems with this genre. How can one write a memoir for someone other than the author? In this case, the author is writing her grandmother's life, even though she died when the author was only a child. It reads like a series of anecdotes, and lacks any cohesion. A much better plan would have been to write fiction, and include the modern granddaughter in the story. A good example would be Fannie Flagg's "Fried Green Tomatoes".
Jeannette Walls did an amazing job with this book! It is very well written and once you pick it up, its hard to put down! I read this book after reading "The Glass Castle" I definitely recommend reading this book before reading "The Glass Castle." Its been a while since I've read "The Glass Castle" and now I feel like I need to read it again after reading "Half Broke Horses."
A historical memoir, which I think points out the problems with this genre. How can one write a memoir for someone other than the author? In this case, the author is writing her grandmother's life, even though she died when the author was only a child. It reads like a series of anecdotes, and lacks any cohesion. A much better plan would have been to write fiction, and include the modern granddaughter in the story. A good example would be Fannie Flagg's "Fried Green Tomatoes".

Frequent mentions

1-5 of 153 reviews
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Great Book!

Jeannette Walls did an amazing job with this book! It is very well written and once you pick it up, its hard to put down! I read this book after reading "The Glass Castle" I definitely recommend reading this book before reading "The Glass Castle." Its been a while since I've read "The Glass Castle" and now I feel like I need to read it again after reading "Half Broke Horses."

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Half Broke Horsesby J...

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls Scribner Publishing ISBN 978-1-4165-8628-9 I really have no idea why I even got this book in the first place, but I am certainly glad that I did because I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I love biographies, and I never really read westerns, but since I live in the west, I decided what the heck? I don't think that I have ever read anything quite like this book. The author writes well, and makes the book seem to be an actual first person account of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith's life. Whenever she didn't have access to all of the details from what she remembered from hearing her grandmother's accounts of her own life as a small girl, or from her mother's recollections of her grandmother's life, she researched meticulously to make everything as historically accurate as possible, and then added real details from that time to flesh out the events that she knew had actually occurred in her grandmother's life. There are some events in her life that really amazed me, and I was astonished at how she handled some of these events on her own. If you are interested in biographies, strong women, and the history of the west at the time that it was changing dramatically just before World War II and the time just after World War II when America was going through the changes associated with the birth and growth of the modern suburbs, you will love this book. I started reading it as soon as it arrived just to see what the book was about, and was unable to put it down. I read everything from the acknowledgments to the author's notes without even stopping. I definitely enjoyed reading this book, and would highly recommend it.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Half Broke Horsesby J...

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls Scribner Publishing ISBN 978-1-4165-8628-9 I really have no idea why I even got this book in the first place, but I am certainly glad that I did because I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I love biographies, and I never really read westerns, but since I live in the west, I decided what the heck? I don't think that I have ever read anything quite like this book. The author writes well, and makes the book seem to be an actual first person account of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith's life. Whenever she didn't have access to all of the details from what she remembered from hearing her grandmother's accounts of her own life as a small girl, or from her mother's recollections of her grandmother's life, she researched meticulously to make everything as historically accurate as possible, and then added real details from that time to flesh out the events that she knew had actually occurred in her grandmother's life. There are some events in her life that really amazed me, and I was astonished at how she handled some of these events on her own. If you are interested in biographies, strong women, and the history of the west at the time that it was changing dramatically just before World War II and the time just after World War II when America was going through the changes associated with the birth and growth of the modern suburbs, you will love this book. I started reading it as soon as it arrived just to see what the book was about, and was unable to put it down. I read everything from the acknowledgments to the author's notes without even stopping. I definitely enjoyed reading this book, and would highly recommend it.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

What a wonderful life!...

What a wonderful life! Lily Casey grew up in the Southwest during the early 1900s. She was raised on various hard-scrabble homesteads and being a fast learner, she quickly grasped ranching, breaking horses and basic farming. Her natural smarts and love of books, led her to a teaching career, which included locking horns with the creepy head of a Polygamist sect. She also raced horses, played a mean hand of poker, dabbled in bootlegging, flew airplanes and drove a western taxi, which was a converted hearse. This is called a true-life novel and the author Jeanette Walls, who penned the acclaimed memoir The Glass Castle, based this story on her maternal grandmother. It's crisply and vividly written. This brief dialogue captures Lily's grit. She is taking a couple New York ladies to the Grand Canyon, in the "taxi", when Lily rolls the car. No one is hurt but the ladies are understandably upset: "Youse almost got us kilt!" And Lily's reply- "All that's happened to you is that you've had the lace knocked off your panties. Instead of carrying on, you should be thanking me, because my driving skills just saved all your necks. You ride, you got to know how to fall, and you drive, you got to know how to crash."

Helpful?
Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

I remember reading Jea...

I remember reading Jeannette Walls memoir, The Glass Castle, teary-eyed at the life she and her siblings led at the hands of her alcoholic father and totally useless mother, fending for themselves because the parents who could provide for them chose not to. Walls new book, Half-Broke Horses, described as a true-life novel, tells the story of Walls' grandmother, a gritty, tenacious, unsentimental, harsh woman. There were no tears here just many thoughts of "Who would do that?" or "Who would let their child do that?" We meet Lily Casey when she is ten years old and she and her brother and sister climb a tree to escape the suddenly raging flood waters, and hang on up there through the night until they are able to climb down and return home where their parents' prayers have been answered by their safe return. Her mother tries to take the credit for their survival because she prayed all night but Lily will have none of it: "The way I saw it, I was the one who'd saved us all, not Mom and not some guardian angel. No one was up in that cottonwood tree except the three of us. I started explaining how I'd gotten us to the cottonwood tree in time, figuring out how to switch places when our arms got tired and keeping Buster and Helen awake through the long night by quizzing them." And so begins the tale of Lily Casey's life, filled with one dramatic rescue after another; one daring escapade only to be topped by the next one; a continual line of spineless characters, put in their place by the overbearing Lily. You soon begin to realize that, in her opinion, she's good at anything and everything she tries. And try she does, because living in the southwest desert of the United States in the 1930's and 40's was a true pioneer experience. This is the West when the West was still rough: we follow Lily as she is allowed by her parents to take on responsibilities usually reserved for adults such as, breaking horses, bartering with a store owner over the price of eggs, gelding horses (yikes!), and other incidents that prepare her for what turns out to be her initiation into adulthood at the age of 15: she is hired as an itinerant teacher for a school 500 miles away and the only way to get there is on her horse. It takes four weeks, which Lily takes in stride since Dad supplies her with a pearl-handled six shooter. From there the book goes on to explore Lily's life as a young teacher, her brief time in Chicago, her marriage to Jim Smith and the birth of her children and her experiences as a mother. Towards the end of the book, her daughter Rosemary is highlighted as is the man she marries, Rex Walls. The author lets us know that Lily predicted the life that Rosemary ended up living which was brought to life in Jeannette Walls' memoir. Through it all, Lily's tenacity and strong-willed spirit shines through and although I really didn't like this character much, I had to admire her grit, perseverance and fortitude. The author is just such a great storyteller that it is easy to ignore Lily's less desirable characteristics and just be carried along by the narrative. Along the way you meet many, many other eccentric, quirky characters. Highly recommended.

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